When Jalaiah Harmon was 14, she choreographed one of the most viral dance trends to ever hit TikTok: the Renegade.
The dance, which blew up in 2019, helped catapult a contingent of largely white TikTokers, like Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae, to stardom. But, initially, Harmon was rarely, if ever, credited for the ultra-viral dance moves.
A lot has changed since then. For one thing, Harmon has become a household name. And now, she’s hoping she can show her fans a different side of her life with a new documentary series called “I Am: Jalaiah.”
“If I’m going out somewhere like bowling or skating with my friends, sometimes people will recognize me,” Harmon told NBC News. “I don’t want to say I feel famous, because I’m still a normal teenager, but it’s like different than a normal teenager because of the things that I do.”
The first episode of the documentary series debuted on YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat on Wednesday.
In the episode, Harmon’s mother, Stefani Harmon, described her as a shy child whose meek and mild behavior blossomed into a cool swagger. Her father, Brian Harmon, recalled seeing his daughter playing video games like Just Dance in her bedroom and catching on to the choreography with preternatural ability, which eventually led him to sign her up for dance classes.
Home videos and pictures of Harmon dancing at recitals was intercut with footage of the family eating in the dining room of their home.“I knew she was special. I just didn’t know she was this kind of special,” Stefani Harmon said as the family ate.
After being profiled in The New York Times last year, Harmon’s status exploded. She met with celebrities like P. Diddy, performed with singer Teyana Taylor and even taught her own dance classes.
Despite her fame, Harmon said she hopes viewers realize she’s still a normal silly teenager, someone who loves their friends and family and someone who wants to study film one day but still has to navigate life as a junior at her high school in Fayetteville, Georgia.
“This lets me show people that I’m a normal teenager,” Harmon said. “I got through the same things that people normally do my age.”
The documentary was created by Togethxr, a media company founded by professional athletes including soccer player Alex Morgan, snowboarder Chloe Kim, swimmer Simone Manuel and basketball player Sue Bird. The company said it gravitates toward creating content for and about young women.
“Jalaiah is an incredible talent who created the culture we all participate in, yet wasn’t given proper credit,” Jessica Robertson, chief content officer of Togethxr, said in a statement emailed to NBC News. “But her story is bigger than that. We wanted to elevate her where so many haven’t. She embodies everything TOGETHXR stands for.”
Harmon’s story has helped shift attitudes on platforms like TikTok, where crediting creators who originate dance trends has been an ongoing and contentious issue.
“I definitely think it’s helped me change attitudes and the narrative about how talented and deserving Black creators are,” Harmon said. “It’s a really big deal.”
The issue of credit and labor among Black content creators and creators of color has been a major point of contention since Harmon’s story was brought to light.
In May 2020, Black TikTok users held an on-app protest to fight censorship and other concerns, which they dubbed a “Blackout.” The following month, as national protests engulfed the United States in the wake of George Floyd’s death, TikTok apologized to its Black creators and promised to do better.
TikTok later announced it would create an incubator for Black creatives as well as a fund to support Black creativity.
In June, Black creators held a sort of strike on TikTok, saying they wouldn’t create a dance trend for Megan Thee Stallion’s song “Thot S—” because of a lack of proper credit and a general lack of compensation for Black labor within the creator economy.
Harmon said there’s still much work to be done on the issue of credit, but she said things are trending in a more positive direction now.
“There’s still some times when people aren’t getting their credit, but overall, I think things have gotten a lot better, and people are being more considerate when it comes to giving people their credit and reposting others and appreciating how much people put into their art or their videos or whatever they do,” Harmon said, “especially Black creators.”
Harmon said she still advocates for other creators to get their proper credit, but she hopes “I Am: Jalaiah” shows that her life goes beyond the Renegade.
CORRECTION (Oct. 13, 2021, 5:36 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misspelled the last name of the chief content officer of Togethxr. She is Jessica Robertson, not Roberson.